Did EMPIRE steal P. Diddy’s life story? P. Diddy Seems to Think So

Did EMPIRE steal P. Diddy’s life story? P. Diddy Seems to Think So

The rumors are spreading: P. Diddy (also known as Puff Daddy, Diddy, and Sean Combs for those that can’t keep up) has accused producer Lee Daniels of stealing his “life story” for Daniels’ new, Chicago-based show, EMPIRE. And no, P. Diddy is not from Chicago.

EMPIRE is a musical drama television series that follows a hip-hop music and entertainment company, Empire Enterprises. As the founders fight for control of the company, Luscious Lyon, a former drug dealer turned hip-hop mogul and CEO of Empire Entertainment, is diagnosed with ALS. And no, P. Diddy does not have ALS.

The show also follows the story of Lyon’s family, which includes an outspoken ex-wife with whom Lyon had 3 kids. Nope. P. Diddy has never been married and has 5 biological children from 3 different women and 1 adopted child.

Another element of the show is the estranged relationship Lyon has with gay, singer-songwriter son. Okay, yes, P. Diddy, this element is similar. But… err… I’d argue that, as unfortunate as it is, an estranged relationship with a gay son is not that unique.

Yes, P. Diddy has a label, and he and his label have been through some rough times. But P. Diddy’s recent accusations that Lee Daniels “stole [his] life” seem a bit extreme.

Legally speaking, “life story rights” are rights given by an individual to a writer or producer that allow said writer or producer to: (1) use the individual’s name, likeness, voice, and biography, (2) depict, portray, impersonate or simulate the individual, and (3) make use of all the incidents of individual’s life preceding, surrounding, following and otherwise in any way relating to incidents about the individual’s life that the producer or writer deem appropriate, whether wholly or partially factual or fictional. These “life story rights” must be granted to the producer or writer through some form of an agreement; otherwise, you cannot use them.

So the question remains: If P. Diddy sues Lee Daniels, will he win?

P. Diddy was quoted, “You can’t just put out the Sean Combs Biography without paying me and I’m filing a million dollar lawsuit.” True that. But you also can’t file a lawsuit without any evidence to back up your claims. If you take a look at the basic elements of EMPIRE, and the basic elements of P. Diddy’s life, there is simply not enough overlap to even warrant a longer article.

I rest my case.

Katherine (Kate) Imp is an entertainment attorney at Ramo Law PC and Chicago native. She specializes in film finance, production and distribution for clients in Illinois and across the country. Contact Kate at @KatherineImp or kate@ramolaw.com.

Disclaimer: The information in this column is intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.